Music and colour are slowly returning to our lives. I thought I’d mark this huge milestone with some colourful iced biscuits. I used the biscuit recipe from the beautiful book “Saved by Cake” by the Irish writer Marian Keyes. The book and the bakes tell Marian’s story as she finds baking helps during a battle with depression. While the girlie Marian makes handbags and shoes, I of course made stars. For the first time since starting Cakes for Conor I had music playing in the background. I spent a lovely afternoon mixing and piping the colourful royal icing. It took me back to the colouring in activities I loved as a child.
Some cultures impose periods of mourning on the bereaved. People wear black, withdraw from social occasions and observe quiet, reserved behaviours. No one imposed any rules on us but our lives lost colour and sound for a while. Our home became a dark, silent place after Conor died. In the early days we couldn’t bear sound of any kind. The radio and TV were kept off. The silence left some visitors restless and uncomfortable but to us noise was overwhelming. The two days spent in the maternity hospital were noisy for all the wrong reasons. To drown out the sounds of new born babies crying from the other delivery suites we had a radio tuned into Lyric Fm. Conor’s Daddy has an amazing ability to recognise songs from their first notes. He could probably name most of the tunes played that weekend. Those hours spent with Lyric Fm’s easy listening playlist has damaged our ability to enjoy music. While it’s not for others to tell anyone how to grieve, I can see how periods of mourning may help to protect the bereaved and give them time to re-adjust to their new lives.
I have given a lot of thought to why music has been problematic for us. It has been about more than just seeking silence. The former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talked about being unable to listen to music after the death of his baby girl. Some other bereaved parents I now know have described the same. Music, memory and emotion are so strongly linked and I think this is the cause. I don’t think Conor’s Daddy will ever be able to listen to Pearl Jam whose latest album was his soundtrack to our pregnancy. It was months before Conor’s Daddy could even sit in a cafe with background music. Music caught us off guard. Without warning songs were played that could trigger painful memories. There were moments from our time in the materity hospital we never want to forget. Equally there are moments we never want to remember. Just four months after Conor died we went to a Morrissey gig. I never missed his gigs so it seemed like the right thing to do as I mistakenly thought I needed to re-build my old life. I couldn’t stop crying and left early. His songs took me back to my old life and happier times. This only highlighted how unhappy I now was.
Last weekend I went to the second gig of my new life. I wasn’t dancing or singing along like the old me would have done. However, for the couple of hours standing in a city centre park listening to Damien Rice’s amazing vocals I actually felt happy. I was able to experience the music in the present. Only the other day I heard Conor’s Daddy singing in the shower. I don’t think we’re ready to switch on music radio with its random playlist of memories but we can start to enjoy music of our own chosing. I’m curious to see which songs will form the soundtrack to our new life. Nearly one year into our grief I can feel a change and it feels good. Conor, we hope you’re proud of us.
There are some great clips on YouTube to get you started on piping. I buy good quality gel colours. Don’t use the cheap liquid colours from the supermarket. I’m going to treat myself to some extra No 2 nozzles so I can have all the filled piping bags ready to go. Good luck.